Gordon Ryan was born on 19 August 1927 to Michael Patrick and Lillian Ryan, nee Hellyer. Gordon has three younger brothers: Kenneth M, Peter J and William P Ryan. Gordon married Lorna Beryl Allan date of birth 7 February 1928, in Bulli on 23 May 1953.
Gordon started his school days at Leichhardt Public School before going on to Drummoyne High School where he became very proficient as a violinist and from where he won a music scholarship to Scots College Bellevue Hill – he was first violinist. During the war years, 1939‑1945, the Scots College Orchestra performed at various Australian Comfort Fund’s concerts. Gordon did solo work around the local community and played in many churches in the Sydney area.
Gordon’s mother wished he would take music as a profession, but he was more interested in radios and things of a technical nature, building crystal sets and a push/pull amplifier.
On leaving school, Gordon joined the Public Service and was sent to the Government Insurance Office of New South Wales in the medical department; it was in this department that Gordon met Doctor Ian Graham. Doctor Graham started a practice in Thirroul, invited Gordon down one weekend and during the visit took him to Bulli Hospital – it was from there that Gordon’s radiography career commenced.
In 1943 Gordon enrolled as an external studies student in a three-year course with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Gordon had Doctor Barbara Wood, Australia’s first full-time woman radiologist, of Melbourne, as his tutor, for which he was very grateful.
Gordon did two days at Bulli Hospital when the radiologist did barium studies; the other three days were at Wollongong Hospital for his practical training under the guidance of Reg Waters, chief radiographer.
Examination papers were sent to the principal of Bulli High School who acted as supervisor returning the completed papers to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
Gordon qualified in 1946 as an x‑ray technologist. When qualified, Gordon would x‑ray twenty to twenty‑five patients per week. There was a full range of examinations with screening sessions twice a week. The radiologist wrote his reports in a large register, they were later typed and checked and would then be sent to the various referring doctors.
Gordon was the sole radiographer at Bulli Hospital; when he went on holidays, four weeks a year, or happened to be sick, a relief radiographer was sent from Wollongong Hospital.
Gordon became a member of the Australian Institute of Radiography in 1948, and from 1967 to 1984 was involved with the executive of the New South Wales branch, during that time holding the position of honorary treasurer, president and delegate to federal council.
Committee and branch meetings were held monthly at different venues but mostly at a hospital. There would be a guest speaker. It was rather difficult for Gordon to make the trip to Sydney on these occasions, having to organise a relief radiographer from Wollongong Hospital to cover call work. At the conclusion of the meeting a light supper would be served, provided by a sponsor company, drug house, manufacturer or film company.
At the annual meeting the names of office bearers for the ensuring year would be announced. Kodak Australasia was the main sponsor, but Toshiba and Philips were also very supportive.
A prominent person in the medical, radiographic or science field would be invited to present the James N Young Memorial Lecture. James Young worked in the pathology department, Sydney Hospital, assisting Doctor Herschel Harris doing x‑rays. As a consequence of this Mr Young’s hands became so crippled he had to relinquish x‑ray work and over the next three decades he underwent numerous operations and skin grafts, finally having his hands amputated. Mr Young died in 1937.
Gordon was a delegate to federal council of the AIR. Each state would nominate a member who together would constitute the council. 1969 to 1980 Gordon was vice president, president and treasurer.
Meetings of federal council took place once a quarter unless something urgent occurred when a meeting would be convened. These meetings were usually held in Melbourne at the secretariat where all records and information is held.
The annual general meeting which occurred at the same time as the Annual National Technical Conference would rotate between the states. The Cecil Ernest Eddy Memorial Oration was presented at the same time. Doctor Eddy was a prominent physicist, Director of the Commonwealth X‑Ray and Radium Laboratories in Victoria. He held many other positions relating to medical research and was a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Institute of Radiography.
The conference proceedings were published in “The Radiographer” which was circulated to all members, state libraries and societies holding reciprocity with the Australian Institute of Radiography.
Gordon was involved with the advancement of radiographer education within New South Wales. The course was run by the Sydney Technical College but to have a degree course this had to be run through a university. The courses are now established at the Sydney University, Sturt College, Wagga Wagga and Newcastle University. The students now receive the Bachelor of Science Degree.
The graduation ceremony is held in Sydney with students from all campuses coming together. There is a guest speaker of some educational standing who after the address presents the students with their degrees.
Country branches of the AIR were formed in New South Wales, because the distance made it impossible for country members to attend Sydney monthly meetings. Branches were formed in Newcastle, Western Districts, New England, North Coast, Riverina, Australian Capital Territory and the Illawarra. The branch meetings are run on the same lines as the Sydney meeting.
Gordon became interested in the International Society of Radiographers and Radiological Technologists through his involvement with Rotary International and the Association of Apex Clubs in Australia. Rotary is associated with the World Health Organisation while Apex focuses on health problems within the Australian community.
The ISRRT was established in the UK in 1959 following a meeting of radiographers from the UK and Europe. They would meet at the Middlesex Hospital under the hospitality of Miss Marion Frank, OBE. The first secretary general/treasurer, Mr Ray Hutchinson, was appointed in 1962. There are now over fifty radiographic societies throughout the world, each society appointing a council member to the ISRRT.
The administration of the ISRRT is under the direct control of the secretary general. Council members are elected at each world congress, which is held every four years. There is a president, three vice presidents, one for the Americas, one for Asia and Australasia and one for Europe and Africa, three regional secretaries and other office bearers as appropriate.
Regional conferences and educational seminars are held on request. Items of interest are published in the ISRRT Newsletter.
Gordon was appointed to the ISRRT board in 1969 as Asia/Australasia regional secretary for two terms, eight years, then as treasurer for two terms. He was elected president at the 1985 World Congress in Hawaii, being the first Australian to hold that position.
There have been two ISRRT conferences held in Australia, the first in Sydney in 1975 and the second held in conjunction with the AIR Annual National Conference in 2000.
Gordon was invited to speak at the Sydney Conference as a pioneer radiographer; he spoke mainly about equipment in use when he started radiography and equipment today.
Gordon was also invited to give the Karthigesu Vaithilingam Memorial Address. Mr Viathilingham ran the School of Radiography in Singapore at the Outram Road Hospital [Singapore General Hospital].
For his input into the ISRRT, Gordon was awarded Honorary Fellowship of the British Society in 1989 and at the conference in Paris in the same year was given the Medal of Paris, this was presented by the then Premier of Paris, Jacques Chirac, later president of France.
During Gordon’s term as president of the ISRRT, an ISRRT/Kodak scholarship was established. This scholarship was to permit a radiographer to complete a year’s study in a country outside his or her own country. The first successful applicant was from an African Society. The value of the scholarship was the equivalent of $A30,000.
Gordon organised tour groups to go overseas to attend various conferences, the first in 1969 to the World Congress in Tokyo and the second in Madrid in 1973. During these tours, places of historical radiological interest such as the Roentgen Museum in Germany were visited.
People of note met during these tours were Herr Ernst Streller, curator of the Roentgen Museum and in Holland a leading physicist, Professor Van Der Plaats and as previously mentioned Jacques Chirac, who was very interesting to talk to about the various student uprisings in France at the time.
In 1983, an International Teachers’ Seminar was held in Adelaide, the object of the seminar was to co‑ordinate teacher training between New Zealand, Tahiti, Australia and Singapore. The countries involved were Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea, Singapore and Hong Kong – this would involve no more than twenty people.
Gordon spent some forty‑seven years at Bulli Hospital starting in 1944. At that stage it was a cottage hospital, and the local community was relied upon for maintenance, gardening etc. Patients’ evening meal had to be provided by a relative or friend.
When Gordon started at Bulli Hospital, the equipment had been ordered in 1928 making it rather antiquated and because of interference to aircraft flying over the South Coast. During the war, the Government decided to re‑build the hospital and install new equipment including updating the darkroom. Gordon thought it appropriate when presenting a paper in Tokyo in 1969 to entitle it “From Darkness to Light”. Sister Poole did the x‑rays before Gordon joined Bulli Hospital.
It is understood that in 1971 Bulli Hospital installed the first mammography unit outside Sydney. The hospital did not have specialised equipment because of its proximity to Sydney.
In the early days, Gordon ran the x‑ray department single-handed but as the department grew, an office assistant was appointed and from 1952 three student radiographers were appointed, who rotated between Bulli and Wollongong Hospitals to gain experience.
Bulli Pass was the scene of many traffic accidents and as Bulli Hospital was only two miles away, they received these trauma cases.
Gordon served as an honorary bearer to the Illawarra Ambulance and on one particular occasion was called to the top of Bulli Pass as there had been a motor bike accident. On arrival he found that four bikes were involved, three of the riders were dead, the fourth taken to hospital for x‑ray, a doctor coming on the scene verified these findings. Death was a shock to anyone, but you coped and carried on with your work – today facing such conditions one receives counselling.
Initially, call work was covered by Wollongong Hospital, but subsequently Gordon had a direct phone line to the casualty department at Bulli Hospital and did the call work.
Institute meetings were sometimes held at Bulli Hospital.
Bulli Hospital was near a horse training stud – the owners and trainers donated generously so that on occasions x‑ray examinations would be performed looking for metallic fragments in the horse’s legs.
Another unusual case was an x‑ray of the abdomen of a man who had swallowed a condom full of drugs. He had been arrested by the Drug Squad and the x-ray brought high commendation from the Police Commissioner.
The hospital was always supportive of Gordon’s radiographic activities – he was never denied requests for time off to attend national or international conferences.
In 1971, Gordon received the WatVic Award for services to radiography; in 1991 the Order of Australia for services to radiography, nationally and internationally; in 1992 Life Membership of the AIR; and in 1988 Fellowship of the United Kingdom’s Society of Radiographers and the Medal of Paris in the same year.
Gordon became a Fellow of the AIR in 1968 by examination.
Gordon visited the United Kingdom on many occasions and during one visit was presented to the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Gordon was an honorary bearer with the Illawarra Ambulance and a member of the Austinmer Surf Life Saving Club of which he became secretary. He was Foundation President of the Thirroul Apex Club in 1961, on compulsory retirement at age forty in 1967 was awarded life membership and invited to join Rotary International where he served as president in 1970/71 and community service director in 1972/73.
Since retirement Gordon has attended some international conferences, was seconded to Sydney University to help plan the degree courses in medical imaging and has visited his brother in the United Kingdom – otherwise he is having a very restful time with his family.
Gordon acknowledges the way he has been rewarded for his achievements and commends to future Australian radiographers to assist medically so called third world developing countries.
Ruth Atkinson interviewing Gordon Thomas Ryan at his home in Bulli New South Wales on 14 August 2002 for the project “Australian Radiographers”.